South of Madras on the shores of Bay of Bengal , Mamallapuram was once a port city of the Pallava rulers. The temples and rock cut sculptures of that period create a unique blend of history and natural beauty. The monuments of Mamallapuram are excellent specimen of Dravidian temple architecture and Pallava art.
The art in the marvellous monuments with sculpted panels, caves, monolith rathas and temples lay emphasis on robust earthly beauties, imbibed with life. The sculptures are breathtakingly real and artistic. The Pallavas were followers of Jainism but the conversion of Mahendra Vernman to Shaivism had drastic consequences on the future of Jainism and it also explains the Shiva and Vishnu temple at Mamallapuram.
The Shore temple is perhaps the most photographed monument in India after Taj Mahal. The temple is floodlit in the night and is a pure visual delight. The pleasure of watching the monument in light with cool breeze from the sea has no comparison. Mamallapuram attracts tourists from all over the globe to its monumental splendour and sunny beaches.
UNESCO has declared Mamallapuram to be a World Heritage Site.
Most of the year: Warm
December & January: Cool and pleasant
It is better to visit between October to March. Avoid the monsoon period.
Throughout the year-Cotton
The nearest airport is Chennai (49 km). From here one can also take flights to South East Asian countries and Sri Lanka. The national highway through Mamallapuram connects it from all places in Tamil Nadu. The nearest railway stations are Chennai and Pondicherry. There are rail links to Madras , Kanchipuram and Arkonam.
Road links to Madras , Pondicherry and Bangalore.
Temple Bay Ashok Beach Resort
Ideal Beach Resort
Rock Cut Caves
Nine caves with carving from Indian mythology
These caves are famous for their real life depiction of incidents from the Hindu Mythology. There are Bas-reliefs in the various caves. Vishnu is seen in the cosmic sleep in Mahishasuramardhini cave. In contrast to peace here, the other portrayals of Goddess Durga is fighting the buffalo headed Demon.
The world's largest stone has relief on a huge rock facing the sea with sculptures depicting scenes from the Mahabharata. This carving on the rock wall is the largest Bas-relief in the world. The rock is in the shape of a whale and it faces the sea.
There are various stories to the depictions. Some say that the person in the Penance is Arjuna who is trying to please Lord Shiva. While others say that it is Bhagirath trying to entreat Shiva to control the force of Ganga when she descends from heaven. Looking at the bas closely the latter appears to be true as Ganga is shown in various other places too. But for some strange reason the wall has been named Arjuna's Penance. It is also said that the wall represents the entire creation of the world. What ever the myth goes, the carvings are extremely detailed, fresh and realistic.
Five monolithic chariot temples dedicated to Hindu gods. Also known as Pancha Pandava Rathas. Although there are eight temples, people recognize only five. It is said that the five Rathas represent the five chariots used by the Pandavas. Four of these temples have been scooped out of one single rock. The imposing Gopurams and sculptured pillars & walls give us a glimpse of the style which was adopted in constructing temples all over Tamil Nadu.
Built in the 8th century AD, it is one of the oldest temples is South India. - This magnificent temple was recently included in the world heritage monuments. A huge wall has been built on one side to prevent it from further erosion since some carvings have almost disappeared. The shore temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. But the carvings inside the temple remain intact. The temple looks particularly beautiful in the night when lit.
This was originally an open air theatre used to organise cultural programmes and activities. The sculpture of lions and tigers on the entrance of the cave gives it the name of Tiger Caves.
Sculpture in stone. The most famous art practiced in Mamallapuram. The sculptors work to carve beautiful figures from stone and are known to do business with people from all over India and abroad. These images include deities for temples and other forms for restoration works. One can buy these images and statues at the Poompuhar Handicraft Emporium or from various other shops along the shore. Some marvelously carved images of Hindu Gods in soap stone or on wood are also offered in the shops.
Jewellery and other items are also available. There is a Himalayan Handicraft emporium and a Kashmirii emporium too. Being a beach destination, you can be sure to find decorative items made from sea shells.